The Prices of Civilizations

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Editor Bill Bradford may be the expert of comparing state taxes (see the September issue of Liberty), but he can’t hold a candle to Price Waterhouse Coopers when it comes to comparing international taxes. Every year, PWC sends me two thick guide- books on individual and corporate tax rates in 125 countries. Not your typical bedtime reading, but I’m always amazed at the wide differences in tax policies between nations. For example, did you know that:

• 55 countries (44% of those surveyed) have no capital gains tax, including the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cambodia, Greece, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Switzerland, and Vietnam. (Unfortunately, Germany just abolished its exemption.)

• European countries have payroll taxes reaching nearly 50% of income (and that’s not counting income taxes); for example, the employee’S share of social security taxes in Belgium is 13% and the employer’s share is 34%, for a combined social security tax of 47%!! Austria’s combined 55 contribution is 39.3% (55 combines unemployment, sickness, accident, and pension categories). And we thought 15% was outrageous here in the good 01′ USA.

• Europe also has a nasty habit of imposing a wealth tax (Sweden, Finland, France), even Swiss cantons have a wealth tax (whatever happened to Swiss secrecy laws?).

• Some anomalies: Polish gamblers can live tax-free on money won in legally registered casinos and lotteries; Greece sticks a stamp tax of 0.6% on gross salary; Germany and Finland still impose a “church tax” on members of officially recognized churches.

• Hong Kong is still one of my favorite tax jurisdictions: maximum income tax is 17%; no withholding on wages and salaries; no taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest. However, the Chinese overlords did impose a 10% “Mandatory Provident Fund” (social security) tax, equally divided between employer and employee, in late 2000. Dirty commies.

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